- The Washington Times - Monday, April 4, 2005

BALTIMORE (AP) - The O’Malley administration says it will replace money for city lead-paint enforcement that had been cut from the state budget by the Ehrlich administration.

The $375,000 has been a source of contention between the Republican governor and the Democratic mayor, who have been political adversaries since the beginning of the year.

Baltimore Mayor Martin O’Malley contends the city needs the money to pay for an attorney and six inspectors who are critical to the city’s abatement-enforcement efforts.

Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. argues that at least part of that money would be better spent to enhance enforcement at the state level.

Both men claim the other’s position is more about scoring political points than finding ways to prevent lead poisoning.

After debating the issue for most of the year, the O’Malley administration said Friday the city would find a way to pay for the program.

“The mayor is going to put the money in his 2006 budget,” said Steve Kearney, an O’Malley spokesman. “It’s a shame that the governor would rather play politics.”

Shareese N. DeLeaver, an Ehrlich spokeswoman, said the governor maintains ? as he has for several weeks ? that the issue is not politics, but the most effective use of state resources in combating lead poisoning.

“The administration stands by its position and believes that the moneys for the Baltimore city lead-paint enforcement program will be more well-spent in the hands of a broader statewide agency,” Miss DeLeaver said.

Ironically, a recent report by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development gives Baltimore the highest rating in its efforts at lead-hazard control, while issuing the state a failing rating.

Deputy Mayor Jeanne D. Hitchcock said it is important for the city and state to work together to combat lead poisoning because there are important roles for both levels of government. For example, the state cannot inspect owner-occupied housing units for lead paint, but the city can, Miss Hitchcock said.

But Horacio Tablada, director of the MDE office that oversees lead-paint enforcement for the state, said the city does not have the broad powers the state has to require landlords to clean up their properties.

The state has authority to require a landlord to clean up lead problems at every property the person owns ? power the city does not have, Mr. Tablada said.

“We can do global enforcement,” he said. “They can only react when a child is poisoned.”

Advocates for victims of lead poisoning have been critical of the dispute between the city and the state, saying that children suffer in the wrangling.

“Kids get lost in the politics,” Ruth Ann Norton, executive director of the Coalition to End Childhood Lead Poisoning, a Baltimore-based advocacy group, told the Baltimore Sun.

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